Tag Archives: privacy

How Private is Facebook?


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Are you leaving Facebook? With all of the concern over privacy lately, many people are choosing to close their accounts. Others are educating themselves with the changes Facebook has made and making the best choices for their profile pages. Still more people are clueless… they don’t realize what is being shared and with whom. They have no idea how to fix this problem once they do learn of it. They just keep going along with their heads in the sand, and hope for the best. This isn’t the way things should be, folks. You shouldn’t have to be so afraid of what the wrong person might see. The fact is, if you put something online then someone will see it. I have come up with the perfect two-step plan to help solve this problem.

Step 1: STOP SHARING SHIT ONLINE THAT YOU DON’T WANT THE WORLD TO KNOW.

Step 2: Repeat step 1.

It’s that simple, really. I know you think it’s cool to say nasty thing online when you’re a teenager. I know that it’s hilarious when you trash someone on your Facebook page or Twitter account. After all, no one is going to see it, right? Think about this, though… you’re 22 years old, and you just graduated college. You’re looking for the perfect job. However, there are firms out there who make a LOT of money to investigate you – including your online presence. Even when you delete that bad tweet or the Facebook comment you regret, it’s still there somewhere. The damage will have been done. Someone will have been hurt by what you said, or another person will have archived a screenshot of it. It can – and often will – come back to bite you in the ass.

As I already said, many people are confused about Facebook’s privacy changes. The kids on the site are the ones who concern me the most. Many of them truly don’t have a clue. Case in point: my assistant Kat heard about a friend’s teenage daughter who had gotten into trouble with a group of her friends for something they had done at school. Kat logged into Facebook, and went to the girl’s Facebook page, forgetting that they aren’t “friends.” Low and behold, she could read everything on the child’s Wall anyway. What she saw astounded her… there were the other girls who had been caught… posting away on her Wall. One girl bragged about how she is not in trouble with her parents because of the elaborate lies she came up with. True story, folks. And by the way? That girl’s parents now know exactly what their sweet little princess had done, thanks to a screenshot and an email.

Just because you’re sitting in the privacy of your own home doesn’t mean that things you share online won’t be seen by people you don’t want to see them. You could stay offline, certainly. You could quit Facebook if you wanted. Or, you could be just a tad more selective as to what you share. There is such a thing as over-sharing. Do you really think that you’ll be the same person in ten or twenty years that you are now?

The gestures you make online… just assume the world will see them. This isn’t really Facebook’s problem. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t change their policies. I’m saying that at the end of the day, the burden for keeping your information private lies on your own shoulders. You are the one ultimately responsible for what others do – and don’t – see.

Don’t push the responsibility for your privacy onto anyone else. Period. End of story.

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Search Your Public Facebook Updates

As the World continues to talk about Facebook and their privacy practices, a couple of developers have pushed the popular site even closer to the brink of no return. Their new project, Openbook shows that every public status update you make on the site is searchable from outside of Facebook’s confines.

If you search for “cheated test,” you’ll see the two above results at the top of the page. These two kids just publicly admitted that they cheated on a test (or more than one). While the first person appears to be out of school now, that kid whose testament is second is not. Should his teacher happen to see this post (or learn of the site another way), they will likely be in serious trouble. Yes – he deserves to be in trouble for cheating, but that’s not the point. The point is how wrong it is for this information to be searchable within Facebook – let alone outside of it.

The guys behind it, Peter Burns and Will Moffat, have posted a simple explanation: “This is a simple example of just how open facebook has made your information. This data is wide open, and this is one of the least scary uses that anyone will make. If nothing changes, it’s only to get worse. Openbook is a front end for the public search API service that Facebook released on April 21st, 2010. It is intended to draw attention to the information that Facebook now makes publicly available about its users. Our goal is to get Facebook to restore the privacy of this information, so that this website and others like it no longer work.”

You don’t have to be logged in to Facebook to use Openbook, nor do you need to have to have an account. I’m willing to wager that most users on Facebook feel that their “public” status updates will only show up to friends on the site, or even to other FB users. I’d bet a week’s pay that most of them have no idea that their innocent postings, rants and musings are showing up all over the Internet for everyone to read.

What are your thoughts about all of this? Where do you see the future of Facebook heading? If you’re a member of the site, I recommend that you fix your privacy settings and make them as secure as you wish them to be. Likewise, you can always choose to delete your account as many others have already done.

How to Protect Your Privacy Online

Everyone is talking about privacy these days, and no one is happy with the state of things… especially when it comes to Facebook. I told you yesterday on Twitter: There are only two steps you need to follow in order to protect your privacy.

  • Step 1 – STOP SHARING SHIT YOU DON’T WANT THE WORLD TO DISCOVER.
  • Step 2 – See Step 1.

It really is that simple, folks. If you don’t want everyone, their brother and their mother to know something about you, why the hell are you posting it online to begin with? How many of the people who are screaming about having their privacy invaded are the ones who don’t want their bosses (or significant others) to see the pictures from their drunken night in Cancun? If you have secrets you don’t want the rest of civilization to discover, then you should keep that junk to yourself.

How often have you said something on Twitter or Facebook, only to regret it later? Perhaps your boss read your rant about work last week. Or maybe your mom stumbled across something you flippantly tweeted regarding the upcoming family reunion. Whatever the case may be, I have to repeat this again: If you don’t want everyone to know something, then sit down and close your pie hole. That may sound harsh, but apparently harsh is what it takes to get through to some people. There is no undo button on the Internet.

It was interesting to read some of the feedback on my FriendFeed page about this:

In other words, trust no company, trust no person. – Akiva Moskovitz

Side Bar: If you are going to share shit, make sure you know who can see it and take full advantage of any privacy tools. If you can’t lock it down to your liking, see somewhere you can and share there. Failing that, see Step 1. Never assume, it makes an ASS out of U and ME – Johnny Worthington

I’ve been saying this for years – Jesse Stay

Not that what I say matters – Jesse Stay

Or: Even vaults and safety deposit boxes can be broken into. It’s about risk and trust… and know each of them – Johnny Worthington

It’s not about the Sharing. It’s about the Basic Personal Info. – Christopher Galtenberg

If you don’t want Basic Personal Info shared online, don’t put it there. Again, it’s about risk. There is risk in leaving your credit card statements sitting in your letterbox or leaving your wallet on a counter for more that a sec. Risk Assessment. – Johnny Worthington

If the internet can’t deal with personal private data, it won’t work. I thought you felt this way too, JW. – Christopher Galtenberg

Christopher, the phone company can’t guarantee 100% security on calls (fixed lines or cellular), the mail can be tampered with, offices can be bugged, your baggage is scanned at the airport and your wallet can be stolen. No system, physical or digital, is 100% secure. China hacked Gmail. Shit, courier pigeons can be shot down. Since EVERYTHING is <100%, each person must undertake a risk assessment when sharing critical data. If you must have 100%, then a communication channel that is run by a series of commercial entities and less than stellar governments probably isn’t for you. That doesn’t mean it’s 0% secure (probably more like 90-95% secure) but looking for a perfect solution is futile unless you control every point, A to B. – Johnny Worthington

By your logic, JW, everything is actually safe (equally trustworthy, relatively) – Christopher Galtenberg

Not exactly. I trust my bank more than I do Facebook or Gmail… but I don’t assume my bank is just 100% safe. Levels of trust. I have performed risk assessments on each online entity and determined what I would feel comfortable about disclosing. – Johnny Worthington

Anything can be hacked. Anything can leak. Trust is a risk and some levels adjust over time, usually down to lower levels. – manielse (Mark Nielsen)

Back to the original post: that’s how I’ve always treated the Internet. Those MySpace/Facebook kiddies who have to show the whole world the most embarrassing stuff they do always appalled me. I’ve always been careful what I share online, even if I sometimes use my blogs or Twitter as a soapbox. – Dennis Jernberg

Indeed! *thinks back to the DYSP video* – Johnny Worthington

@Chris: And that, of course, is why we have to be so careful. Forethought… – Dennis Jernberg

What are your thoughts regarding privacy online? What measures do you take to make sure your information – and life – is secure?

YouTube Unlisted Videos Work Well for Teachers

Melinda is a teacher in the Bay Area whose class created videos as part of a project. She and her students wanted to be able to share their media with friends and family, but no one wanted the videos to be made public. Melinda decided to reach out to YouTube to ask for a solution. The folks behind the scenes waved a magic wand, and introduced us to the “Unlisted” option today.

When you upload a video to YouTube, you can now choose from three options, instead of the usual two. In the past, you could make your video public, or share it with only twenty five people. However, even with the limited number of views the content would still show up on search engines and in the user’s home page. With the Unlisted feature, everything has changed.

When you choose the Unlisted option, you will be given a direct link to the video. It will not appear in any of the public pages, in search results or on your personal page. It’s essentially a private video – only accessible to people who possess that direct link. Keep in mind that everyone who has the link can watch whatever content you have uploaded, so only give it out to people you trust.

There are no view limits with the Unlisted option, and having an actual YouTube account isn’t required. YouTube spokesperson Chris Dale says: “Unlisted videos are treated just like any other YouTube video on YouTube and are subject to the same Community Guidelines and DMCA complaint procedures. Users can flag videos that they believe violate our Community Guidelines. The YouTube team reviews flagged videos 24 hours a day 7 days a week and removes those videos which violate our Guidelines. Users can also file DMCA complaints against unlisted videos that they believe violate their copyrights. We do not allow users with any Community Guidelines or copyright strikes against their accounts to upload unlisted videos.”

The new unlisted option will not change how YouTube will be scanning uploaded videos for terms of service violations. The new option has no real impact on what’s going on behind the scenes. This option is absolutely perfect for situations like Melinda had with her class. You could also use it to share recordings from family events with those who couldn’t join you… or record yourself singing a sappy love song and share it with your significant other.

Facebook and Privacy: Will the Twain Never Meet?


This guest post is contributed by Shannon Wills, she writes on the topic of Internet Service Providers . She welcomes your comments via email.

It’s an issue that’s dominating headlines on the web these days; it’s raking up the muck in the world of social media; even so, Facebook doesn’t seem to be bothered about all the controversy that its privacy issues (or lack of it) is generating. Just a few months ago, we were shocked at how private email messages sent within Facebook were sent to the wrong recipient; now it’s the turn of private chat messages and friend requests to be visible to your friends, if you knew how to make the right tweaks.

Of course Facebook fixed these security holes in a matter of hours, but the question we need to ask ourselves is – If this could happen twice over a period of three months, how many more security lapses can we expect in the future? How many of these will go unreported and stay unfixed? And even if they are reported and fixed, how many thousands of lives would have been affected in the interim?

The problem with social networks is that they allow other people control over your life. Of course, most problems arise because people are not careful about what they post online or because they leave their pages open for all and sundry to access. But then, what if you’re discreet about your postings, information and photos and have all your privacy settings in place so that only the people you allow access can see your page and all that is on it? Does that mean you’re automatically safe? Apparently not, because Facebook has this autonomous policy of revamping its privacy controls every now and then, and information that you had set as private is now open to the public by default. If you want privacy, you’re forced to go into the settings and change them again.

For example, the latest revamp allowed Facebook users to show up on public search listings even though they wanted to be visible only to their friends. And since there was no real intimation sent out (Facebook did send out vague emails about the new policies, but even these were hidden in a folder called Updates in your Messages. Not many people would bother to check this area because it does not show up in your Notifications. And as a result, what you assumed was private was now part of the public domain.

For the net savvy user, this is a minor irritant because they’re aware of all the latest security issues and they take care of the necessary fixes immediately. But for the average user, it’s a disaster waiting to happen if the wrong people gain access to information on their profile – relationships could be ruined, jobs lost, and feelings hurt in the process.

But no, Facebook does not care that most its users are not savvy enough to figure out that they have to opt out of certain privacy options, and no amount of protests or criticism is going to stop this giant of a social network from rolling on to boost its visibility on and dominance of the web. The only thing that could possibly help is the mass exodus of many of its users, but then, we’re an addicted lot – we may complain every now and then, but like any normal human being, we resign ourselves to the situation and go on to posting the next status update or comment, and privacy issues are relegated to a corner of the mind.

Facebook Serves Up Unwanted Apps

Amidst a slew of heated arguments this week surrounding Facebook’s stance on privacy, yet another blemish has been added to the mix. Many people woke up this morning to find that the popular site had decided to serve up unwanted apps without any consent or control on the part of the user.

This morning, Facebook quietly added apps to your profile for certain websites you may have visited while logged in to FB. You didn’t need to have an actual Facebook window open… you simply had to have not logged out after your session. There were no notifications nor any opt-out buttons to check or uncheck. Some of the sites whose apps were added include Mashable!, TechCrunch, and the USA Today (at least in MY profile). All of the sites who left this trail all have Facebook integration on their sites, and the app install appeared to have been related to the social networking site’s new sharing features and tools.

If a website installs something onto my computer without my knowledge or consent, that “something” is labeled as malware. In my mind, these apps were exactly that. They weren’t something I chose. They were installed on my profile without my even knowing it until this news broke. There was no way that I could easily find to remove them, either. Only after I read up on the announcement did I figure out how to get rid of them. The problem is, if I don’t completely block them they will just re-install the next time I visit those sites.

The new “features” in Facebook’s Open Graph API are supposedly there to be used with your permission to cross-post your comments between the site and external sources. For example, if you commented on a story over at TechCrunch, a pop-up will ask you if you want to publish the comment as a wall story on your Facebook profile, as well. YOU had the choice to allow this or not. This morning, that freedom to choose was stripped away from you.

Hours after the dam broke free, Facebook released a statement:

There was a bug that was showing applications on a user’s Application Settings page that the user hadn’t authorized. No information was shared with those applications, and the applications did not appear to anyone but the user. This bug has been fixed.

According to some reports, though, the problem still persists. While information may not be shared with the sites, their apps are still showing up in profiles after removal. The only way to completely get rid of them is to block them in your app settings.

This is but one more slap in the face for Facebook. However, the site appears to remain unconcerned. With the government already stepping in to attempt to reign in Zuckerberg and his team, I would think that the site would be more vigilant than ever when it comes to letting “bugs” such as this crawl through.

Leave Your Privacy at the Door

As I sat here about to wind down for the night, I noticed a new post by my friend Robert Scoble. Robert began an interesting discussion on his blog to talk about Facebook and privacy. All of the points he makes are right-on, and I found myself nodding in agreement much of the time I was reading.

It gets interesting, though, in the comments section. As Robert is fond of pointing out, that is usually always where you’ll find the most relevant opinions and discussions on any website. For instance, Brandon Soucie points out that “when it really comes down to it, how “private” are your interests, favorite music, movies, books, etc? And in what ways can it be harmful to have this information publicly accessible?” So what if Facebook tells the world what music I’m listening to? You’ve been able to find that out at any time during the past three years by tuning in to my live stream.

Much of the information that is no longer private on Facebook are things you already talked openly about, anyway. We tell the world via Twitter where we’re at nearly every moment thanks to check-in services like GoWalla and Foursquare. I see people updating regularly when their Pandora station plays a new song that they enjoy. People recommend their favorite movies, books and restaurants all over the Web. Why, then, are you so shocked and pissed that Facebook is giving out this same information?

I’m not trying to claim that there shouldn’t be boundaries and limitations. If Zuckerberg suddenly decided to display my address and social security number all over the place, we’d have a huge problem. However, that information isn’t even listed anywhere on the site. Facebook can only divulge what we feed into it. I don’t tell the site what time of day I get out of bed. I don’t post on my Wall every time I change my underwear. I don’t even discuss what I ate for dinner, for frick’s sake. I still have control of my “privacy.” No social networking site can take that away from me.

If you want something to stay private, you shouldn’t be posting it on the Internet. Long before everyone “Liked” everything, that was a golden rule of being online. Way before the days of e-Wars regarding privacy and sharing, we knew in our little brains that there are some things we should just keep quiet about. At the end of the day, you are still the one in the driver’s seat. You are the only person who can decide whether or not something should be shared.

If you don’t like the way Facebook is doing things these days, you don’t have to be a member. Continuing to use the service while complaining to anyone who will listen is not the way to help facilitate change. As Robert says, look for the positives in all of this. Keep your secrets close to your chest, and run out to expand your music horizons.

How to Add More Music to Your iPod or iPhone

If you’re a music fanatic, I bet you’ve griped many times about the lack of space for tunes on your Apple device. With the release of the new version of iTunes today, those rants will hopefully be relegated to the past. Apple has added a feature to reduce the size of the music files on your iPod or iPhone by converting the bit rate to 128 kbps. Most of you will never notice a difference in the quality of what you’re hearing when playing back your selections.

Install the update and begin your sync. Make sure to check “Convert higher bit rate songs to 128 kbps AAC” when you plug in your device. The sync will take longer than usual, because the application will need to convert all of the media to the new specification. You will be rewarded for the wait, though. Your iPhone or iPod will now be able to hold up to twice as many individual tracks as before.

This feature has been available on the iPod Shuffle for a while now, and many of us are happy to see that it has been extended to other popular Apple gadgets. Keep in mind that your original files in iTunes will not change. They will still have the same high quality as they had prior to the changes on the device.

What tech developments have come to your attention today? If you have anything to pass on that we may have missed on this blog, feel free to drop us a line.

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Protect Your Privacy Online

There should be an image here!Your computer most likely holds the necessary data sufficient for successful identity theft. All that is needed for identity theft to occur is to tie a social security number to a name. If you access sites like PayPal or your bank account, those personal data become readily available. Having your identity compromised is simply a personal nightmare that can take years to resolve.

The data on identity theft show that, many times, the crime is perpetrated by someone that the victim knows. That means that it is critical to protect your computer files from people that you know. It might be a roommate, a repair person, a classmate, a co-worker… someone who may and can have casual access to your desktop, laptop, and/or netbook.

In addition to that personal data, you might want to keep photos, passwords, music, videos, and other such files away from other prying eyes. These files represent your privacy.

We recommend Invisible Secrets for a number of security and privacy reasons:

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We have Invisible Secrets available to our readers at a 40% discount from this link.

Invisible Secrets works on Windows NT / 2000 / XP / Vista and Windows 7. This generous offer ends March 10, 2010.

Cisco Systems uses this program. The Drug Enforcement Administration (USA) uses this program. The Exchange Bank uses this program. McCain Foods Limited uses this program. The program is Invisible Secrets and the client list grows. Privacy and security are important to these companies and institutions — it is essential to computer protection. This is a preventative measure that individual computer users have to recognize because there is so much information on just one hard drive.

This program should be standard on every machine. With business laptops, government laptops, and personal laptops going missing every day, this security program should be on every portable machine, as well as desktop. This would provide an enormous saving for sensitive information that is breached and the subsequent nightmare of paying for identity theft protection. It’s simple and it’s effective.

Let’s look at just one feature of this program. There are situations where you might be concerned that about keylogging programs stealing your keyboard entries. For example, you might be using an unfamiliar Wi-Fi connection. Invisible Secrets provides a virtual keyboard that prevents criminal access to what you type. This safeguards your passwords and access to sites like PayPal. This is only one of the many benefits of this program.

And this is something that travelers might consider: what if airport security confiscated your laptop? It is absolutely frightening, but it can happen.

If you are in need of multiples of this program, please let us know. We will try to negotiate a good price for those companies that might need many copies for laptops holding those confidential files. For the individual user, think of the files, emails, pictures, passwords, and other bits of information that you don’t want people to access. That is exactly why we want this privacy/security program for our readers… and our thanks to the Invisible Secrets people for this kind offer.

Facebook Bug Delivers Mail to the Wrong People

A few days ago, Facebook apparently had a coding problem which cause messages to be delivered to the wrong people. The bug supposedly only affected a small piece of the Facebook population, including early-adopters who attended Harvard. Some people started receiving notifications in their inbox that were clearly not intended for them. At least one person reported receiving hundreds of messages – all of which belonged to someone else. A Facebook representative stated:

“During our regular code push yesterday evening, a bug caused some misrouting to a small number of users for a short period of time. Our engineers diagnosed the problem moments after it began and worked diligently to get everything back in its rightful place. While they fixed the issue, affected users were not be able to access the site.”

This generic explanation isn’t cutting the mustard for many people. Having your private messages delivered to the wrong person can be construed as a violation of privacy. Several people are wondering where the heck the quality assurance measures were before this code was even pushed out the door. Facebook only retains about 1000 people on its staff. There are more than 400 million members on the popular social networking site. With the sheer number of updates and changes being rolled out on a regular basis, how can we be certain everything is being thoroughly tested prior to launch?

I am not trying to point fingers. Yes, problems with code happen every day. Updates fail. But when you have something of this magnitude happen, one has to wonder at what point the ball was dropped. Someone needs to figure this out, and put a plan into place to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Imagine if you had sent something very personal to a relative on your friends’ list… instead, it ends up in the box of a random stranger with bad intentions. All hell could literally break loose.

This just goes to show that no matter how much you trust a website or service, you still have to be proactive in safeguarding your information, your data and your life.